By Chris Frederick
A job comes up just around the corner from your precast plant. You diligently prepare your bid. Then the time comes when you learn the winning bid does not include precast concrete.
Upon further review, you find that the owner agency is not familiar with the far-reaching benefits precast concrete could offer over alternative materials and how precast could be the perfect material for the job.
The lesson to take from it: Don’t let it happen again.
Investing a little bit of time in advance talking to local specifiers and building relationships is just as important as crafting the perfect bid. Educating decision-makers on the benefits of precast not only gets your foot in the door, it also creates the level playing field you want to play on.
THE TIME IS NOW
With the infrastructure bill signed and funding being distributed, there has never been a more valuable time to promote precast concrete. This is a critical step to promote opportunity and growth within the industry.
You are busy. Everyone is. Spending that extra time up front may seem like a huge investment, but it doesn’t have to be. Events such as Precast Days increase access to the decision-makers and influencers with whom you need to connect.
To be successful, however, a year-round, consistent communication effort is necessary.
Leo Feuerstein embraces this approach. As operations manager at Western Precast Concrete Inc. in El Paso, Texas, Feuerstein knows the importance of outreach, education and creating connections with specifiers. He has done it throughout his 37 years with Western.
“Dropping by their offices for lunch and learns, being available as a resource-problem solver and supporting community initiatives the firms are backing are all important ways of building and solidifying specifier and producers’ relationships,” Feuerstein said. “The only way to accomplish this is getting out and getting to know your local specifying community.
“It is impossible for us as manufacturers to think the engineer or specifier would have the knowledge that we do in the precast industry.”
INVITE SPECIFIERS TO YOUR FACILITY
Like manufacturing a quality precast product, extra care and attention to detail can create the end result you are seeking.
Feuerstein opens his appointment calendar to specifiers and consistently makes Western available for tours and drop-bys.
“We on a regular basis have engineering firms in our plant for plant tours to ‘see how it is made,’” he said. “That is an experience each engineer takes back to his or her office with a new vision of precast concrete, strength, durability and conformance to specifications and quality.”
Through gestures as simple as these, the specifying community will begin to look to you as a resource when complex situations arise.\
Feuerstein recalls one such payoff. On a project for the University of Texas at El Paso, a school official turned to Western to assist in designing several large communication vaults for a development on campus. During the design phase, Western provided calculations from its staff engineer on structural design and loading for the vault’s slab thickness.
Simply by being a trusted resource when the plans came out for bid, the drawings and structures were included as “Provided by Western Precast Concrete or equal.”
Relationships take time and effort, whether personal or professional. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
But if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you will begin to build long-lasting connections with local specifiers and become a valuable resource. This will pay off in dividends – just as it has for Feuerstein and Western.
Chris Frederick is the senior director of membership and regulatory service at NPCA.